Future scenarios can help plan for uncertain futures by integrating climate change with other drivers of change, such as levels of socio-economic development and different government regimes. Scenarios then enable policy makers to explore diverse future pathways.
The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has developed future scenarios as a tool for strategic planning with decision-makers from all over the world, incorporating both socio-economic and climate-based concerns. CCAFS has facilitated the use of these scenarios to test and develop national policies and investment plans which are robust and to provide “no-regrets” options in the face of diverse futures. Many national and regional actors have been involved, as well as key global partners. Regional scenarios were developed in a participatory fashion based on the interactions of key regional drivers. These were then quantified using two agricultural economic models: GLOBIOM, developed by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA); and IMPACT, developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Finally, the scenarios were linked to the latest set of global IPCC community scenarios.
These regional scenarios were used in a number of specific scenario-guided national policy processes. Each time, policy teams were positioned as the owners of these processes, along with key stakeholders who would be affected by the policy. Draft policies and implementation plans were reviewed, in detail, using down-scaled, policy-specific versions of the regional scenarios.
Relationship to CSA
A number of successful policy guidance processes have been conducted using the future scenarios approach. For instance, in Honduras, the government, together with CCAFS and other partners, used scenarios to develop an agricultural climate adaptation plan based on CSA principles. After the development of this plan, a range of community-level implementation plans were developed, based on the national plan and using the scenarios for guidance. In Cambodia, the government’s Climate Change Priorities Action Plan was developed using CSA principles in a scenario-guided process. Five other examples in CCAFS regions demonstrate how scenarios can be used to guide policy for CSA.
Impacts and lessons learned
There are some crucial elements necessary for a successful scenarios building process:
creating ownership through close collaboration between researchers and those who lead policy processes
- timing, willingness and trust building to create transparency, and truly problem-oriented policy
- participation of stakeholders who will be affected positively or negatively by the policy
- ensuring that the scenarios are legitimate, credible, challenging and yet flexible enough to be re-imagined for specific policy processes
Schubert C. 2015. Overview of CCAFS scenario-guided policy processes. CCAFS Blog. CCAFS Blog. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).https://ccafs.cgiar.org/blog/future-scenarios-work-informs-climate-and-agriculture-policies-seven-countries#.Ve2QURGqqkp This CCAFS blog post provides an account of how future scenarios work have helped inform climate, agriculture and development policies in seven countries.
Vervoort J, Thornton PK, Kristjanson P, Förch W, Ericksen P, (…), Jost C. 2014. Challenges to scenario-guided adaptive action on food security under climate change. Global Environmental Change 28:383-394.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.03.001 This paper examines the development and use of scenarios as an approach to guide action in multi-level, multi-actor adaptation contexts such as food security under climate change. Three challenges are highlighted: (1) ensuring the appropriate scope for action; (2) moving beyond intervention-based decision guidance; and (3) developing long-term shared capacity for strategic planning. To overcome these challenges we have applied explorative scenarios and normative back-casting with stakeholders from different sectors at the regional level in East Africa. We then applied lessons about appropriate scope, enabling adaptation pathways, and developing strategic planning capacity to scenarios processes in multiple global regions. Scenarios were created to have a broad enough scope to be relevant to diverse actors, and then adapted by different actor groups to ensure their salience in specific decision contexts. The initial strategy for using the scenarios by bringing a range of actors together to explore new collaborative proposals had limitations as well as strengths versus the application of scenarios for specific actor groups and existing decision pathways. Scenarios development and use transitioned from an intervention-based process to an embedded process characterized by continuous engagement. Feasibility and long-term sustainability could be ensured by having decision makers own the process and focusing on developing strategic planning capacity within their home organizations.